Can you still get your period during pregnancy?

Often, we can mistake some pregnancy experiences for period symptoms.
Written by
Sarah Stivens
Reviewed by
Last updated on
September 15, 2023
7
min read
13
citations
Jump to:
Arrow Down

Any of us who grew up in the 2000s have probably heard an abundance of pregnancy myths in our time. We can totally thank shows like I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant, or those gossip mags your Nan kept by the TV remote.

But the big one, that seems to keep doing the rounds after all these years: is it possible to have a period while pregnant? In this article, we'll explore the truth about whether you can have a period while pregnant. You won't even have to sit through any ad breaks!

And we really need to be clear about this: if you're pregnant (or there's a possibility you might be) and are experiencing bleeding — you should seek immediate medical attention.

Can you still get your period during pregnancy?

Let's get right to it— the short answer is no, you can't have your period during pregnancy. But there's probably a good reason why many people believe you can, and that's because vaginal bleeding happens in around 1 in 4 pregnancies [1].

This bleeding during pregnancy might look and feel like a menstrual period, but it isn't. There can be many causes of bleeding after becoming pregnant, and they don't always lead to miscarriage [2]. Bleeding can also happen at different stages of a pregnancy, for different reasons [3].

Let's check out some of the causes of bleeding while pregnant, as well as signs and symptoms you should look out for.

What can cause bleeding during pregnancy?

The underlying cause of bleeding during pregnancy can depend on the stage of pregnancy you're in. Here's what the research says:

Early pregnancy bleeding

Many women who experience bleeding in early pregnancy will have healthy babies. In fact, bleeding in very early pregnancy is pretty common, but it's still important to have it checked out [2].

Implantation bleeding

The most common cause of bleeding in the early stages of pregnancy is implantation bleeding. This happens when a fertilised egg implants in the wall of the uterus — the bleeding usually starts around the time your period would've been due [3].

Implantation bleeding is usually light and stops after a few days [1]. But again, if you're noticing bleeding — chat with your GP or midwife to make sure everything's okay.

Ectopic pregnancy

If the bleeding happens during the first trimester, there's also a chance it could be caused by an ectopic pregnancy [1].

Ectopic pregnancies happen when the fertilised egg implants itself somewhere outside the uterus. Most often, this is caused by the egg getting stuck in the fallopian tube [4].

If you're pregnant and experiencing cramping, abdominal pain, or heavier bleeding — this is a medical emergency.

There's also something called a molar pregnancy where the placenta develops abnormally and the pregnancy isn't viable [11]. Both ectopic pregnancies and molar pregnancies can be life-threatening, so need to be treated as soon as possible [1].

Miscarriage

Miscarriage happens when a foetus stops growing, and the pregnancy ends. Around 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and it usually occurs in the first 12 weeks [5].

Aside from bleeding, symptoms of miscarriage can include:

Miscarriages need to be treated by a medical professional, so it's important to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.

As well as making sure you're physically okay, they can help you get the right emotional support. It's important to remember that having a miscarriage doesn't mean you can't have a successful pregnancy in the future.

Late pregnancy bleeding

Bleeding later in pregnancy (second and third trimesters) can happen for different reasons. Some of the causes include:

  • Placenta previa: When the placenta grows, it starts off in the lower part of the uterus. Over time, the placenta should move up higher — placenta previa happens when it stays low and covers the cervix, which can lead to bleeding [6].
  • Placental abruption: This happens when the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus, which can cause bleeding [1].
  • Changes to the cervix: Cervical changes are normal during pregnancy, as they help your body prepare for birth. Your cervix will soften, and eventually dilate to allow the baby to be delivered [7]. These changes might sometimes cause bleeding.
  • Infection: Infections can increase the risk of bleeding. This includes things like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and sexually transmitted infection. If you're showing symptoms of infection and vaginal bleeding, it's important to get it checked out as soon as possible to get the right treatment [8].
  • A 'show': In late pregnancy, a mucus plug develops in your cervix. As labour begins, the plug passes out of your vagina and might have a little blood in it (it's usually light pink in colour). If you have any heavy bleeding, you should get urgent medical care [9].

Bleeding during pregnancy can be scary, but you're not alone — it happens in around 1 in 4 pregnancies. Many women go on to have healthy babies after light bleeding in early pregnancy, but it's always important to check in with your doctor to make sure everything's okay [1].

Don't forget: if you've been unwell, your nutrition has probably suffered a bit too. Your body needs all the nutrients it can get during pregnancy (especially when it's hard to keep food down).

Check out our specialised Pregnancy Protein Powder — made to help you and your baby get all the energy and micronutrients you need to stay well.

Can you still experience period symptoms when pregnant?

Reading through the above, it's no wonder we can mistake some pregnancy experiences for period symptoms. In fact, some of the early signs of pregnancy can mimic period/PMS symptoms. It's like our bodies are trying to trick us. Rude.

Some of the symptoms in early pregnancy that can be confused for period symptoms are:

  • Sore breasts
  • Bloating
  • Feeling tired [10]
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Light cramping [12]
  • Spotting (caused by implantation bleeding)

None of these means a period is coming, because as we've learned — you can't have a true period while pregnant. If you've had a missed period and any (or all) of the above symptoms, it might be time to take a home pregnancy test.

If you're having severe cramping or heavy bleeding, make sure you see a doctor or go to the emergency department.

Is spotting normal during pregnancy?

Light spotting in the early stages of pregnancy is definitely common [12]. As mentioned earlier, it's usually caused by the egg finding its home in your uterus e.g. an implantation bleed. It shouldn't last too long, and it definitely shouldn't be heavy [1].

Because early bleeding can sometimes be a risk factor for preterm labour, it's important to check in with your doctor regularly.

What should you do if you experience bleeding while pregnant?

So now we know some of the causes of bleeding during pregnancy, what should you do if it happens?

Aside from getting medical advice, looking after yourself is key. This means getting enough rest, avoiding sex for a while, and keeping up with a healthy diet.

Some vitamins and supplements might also help. You should definitely keep up with your prenatal vitamin (unless otherwise advised), and if you've been bleeding, your doctor might recommend an iron supplement [3].

Before you start any new supplements or medications, chat with your doctor or healthcare provider to make sure they're suitable for you.

When should I seek medical attention?

Pregnancy complications, including bleeding, can cause a lot of anxiety. That's why we recommend getting medical advice if something doesn't feel right.

If you're bleeding during pregnancy and you've had a previous miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, or have any other underlying health conditions — it's important to get help right away.

Other symptoms that can indicate a medical emergency are:

  • Dizziness, feeling weak or fainting
  • Severe pain (especially abdominal pain, or pain in the shoulder)
  • Chills or a fever
  • Vaginal discharge that is foul or unusual-smelling
  • Heavy bleeding and passing large clots [1].

One way to keep track of how much you're bleeding is to wear pads instead of tampons. If you're soaking through 2 pads per hour, urgent medical attention is needed.

Ultimately, awareness of what to look out for and dispelling pregnancy myths are half the journey. You can't get your period when you're pregnant, but your body can act in ways that feel similar!

Doing your research, checking in with trusted professionals, and keeping an eye on our blog is the best way to find out what to expect.

We know pregnancy can be a little overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be. Kin's Pregnancy Checklist consists of bite-sized checklist items personalised to your pregnancy journey. Approved by fertility specialists and OBYGN approved, you'll feel prepared to tackle each day as it comes and enjoy the process, rather than get lost in it.

Image credit: Getty Images

Essential Protein - 1 Pack

Daily protein shakes for pregnancy and postpartum
$48
Learn more

The Next-Gen Prenatal - 1 Month Supply

Not your average Prenatal vitamin
$45
Learn more

Iron Support - 1 Month Supply

A daily supplement to fight fatigue
$20
Learn more
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
Articles you might like:
No items found.

All of the tools you need to take your reproductive health into your own hands.